The government will launch the Covid-19 vaccination awareness campaign from today to prepare the general population ahead of the mass inoculation against the highly transmissible virus.
"We will start an awareness campaign on vaccination from tomorrow [Friday]. We have urged socially prominent persons to come forward to join our efforts to make people aware of vaccination and we hope people will join," Prof Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, director-general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told The Daily Star yesterday.
He however did not go into detail about the socially prominent persons in the campaign.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said he will take the first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country.
Prof Khurshid said the DGHS has already produced a documentary to make people aware of the vaccination and that will be aired soon, adding that a vaccine bulletin will also be aired regularly to remove any confusion.
"Every vaccine has some side effects. So, side effect for this vaccine is normal. That's why this time vaccines will be administered only in hospitals. After vaccination, every person has to wait for 15 minutes. If there is any side effect it will be addressed immediately," said the health DG.
Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) consultant Mushtaq Hussain said there will be newspaper advertisements, television scrolls, small documentaries, posters and brochures to reach out to the masses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already termed overabundance of information and the rapid spread of misleading or fabricated news, images, and videos as an "infodemic".
"We're not just battling the virus," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on August 25 last year. "We're also battling trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response."
In that context, public awareness campaign for vaccination is very important to dispel concerns and worries about the possible side effects of the vaccine as well as tackling misinformation, said healthcare experts.
They also said a comprehensive campaign involving key public figures will tremendously help build public confidence before the rollout of the vaccine.
Prof Md Sayedur Rahman, chairman at the BSMMU's pharmacology department, said people who have influence in society should come forward to make an impact.
"Politicians, national players, cultural activists, scientists, clerics and some other professionals have influence on society. So, they should be involved in the campaign," he said, adding that around the world influential people have come forward to encourage people to get vaccinated.
He also said in many other countries, the biggest advocates of the Covid-19 vaccine have been their prominent social figures.
In the USA, newly elected president Joe Biden took the first dose of vaccine on December 21 last year to dispel fears about the side effects, according to media reports.
Joe Biden, who was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, took the second dose on January 11 this year.
In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also took the vaccine to set an example for the general population.
Besides, noted personalities like Pope Francis, Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband Prince Philip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Vice-president Kamala Harris, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and many others have already received Covid-19 vaccines.
Bangladesh, however, is yet to name any public figure for mass awareness and vaccination campaigns.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque recently said there was no plan to start vaccination with any important person of the country.
"The people of the country are the VVIPs to us. Those who are in need of it first, will be given [the vaccine] first," said the health minister while responding to a query on whether Bangladesh would follow the example of starting the vaccination process with VIPs, like many other countries.
The country has so far purchased three crore Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India. The Indian government has also gifted 20 lakh of the vaccine doses, which arrived in Dhaka yesterday.
Besides, Bangladesh will get 6.8 crore vaccine doses from Covax, a global vaccine alliance.
Of the purchased vaccine from SII, the first consignment of 50 lakh is expected to arrive in Dhaka on January 2, government officials said earlier.